Dishwasher Dreams – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Actor and comedian Alaudin Ullah has been influenced and inspired by Reuben Santiago, George Carlin, Richard Pryor and August Wilson, in addition to his own father. In his thought provoking original one man show “Dishwasher Dreams” currently lighting up Hartford Stage until Sunday March 20, he focuses on his own history as a Muslim living in the Spanish Harlem section of New York City. In it, he strives to “wake up minds, imbue a sense of gratitude and focus on humanity and the beauty of the immigrant journey and their sacrifices.” He performs to honor the histories of his parents and their ancestors.

In “Dishwasher Dreams,” Alaudin Ullah uses the lens of different generations to examine who he is, where he came from and, ultimately, where he is going. With humor and a little frustration, he reminisces about how his father came to America and struggled to find his way in a strange land. Along the way he loses his dad and manages to discover his mother, a woman who learned English by watching Sesame Street and had a view of the world that was uniquely her own.

Coming from a family in Bangladesh, he unveils his trek discovering sports like his beloved Knicks, using graffiti to create the art of his Muslim world, trying to battle the stereotype of himself as a terrorist, going to college, pursuing his comedic talents, and bringing an original voice to the American theater by focusing on diversity. Along the way, he juggles the many people in his world with stories that need to be told, plucking mangos from his family tree, and paying tribute to the ghosts in his past.

Accompanying him in his journey is Avirodh Sharma, a musician who plays the tabla drum from the West Indies with an ancient history. The pair share a shorthand in musical terms in a language that speaks to a common voice. Lighting designed by Anshuman Bhatia uses squares or boxes of white light to focus on the action, on a minimalistic wooden set created by Yu Shibagaki. Chay Yew directs this intense dramatic immigrant experience, a melting pot of influence, with humor and spirit.

For tickets ($30-100), call Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at Performances are Tuesday to Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m., with a Saturday matinee March 19 at 2 p.m. Proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test must be shown and a mask must be worn.

Attend “Dishwasher Dreams” for an intimate monologue with music that goes deeper than comedy to create a dramatic and vulnerable immigrant story that honors his ancestors and his own unique voice.